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General practices could help reduce child deaths

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General practices have been urged to improve their paediatric expertise and provide opening hours that meet the needs of working parents.

According to the charity National Children's Bureau, these measures could help reduce avoidable child deaths and relieve the increasing burden on A&E services.

Its report Opening the door to better healthcare found young people have a poorer experience of GP services than adults and parents are turning to A&E and hospital specialists because they feel GP practices cannot meet their child's needs.

The report revealed attendance at A&E by under 16-year olds has risen 35 per cent in the past five years, placing 'considerable burden' on services that should only be accessed for emergency care.

Where families are keen to put their trust in their local practice, health professionals are 'seldom available' at the hours families require, encouraging them to go to A&E instead, the report found.

Yorkshire advanced nurse practitioner Ghislaine Young said many GP practices already open early and offer late appointments to accommodate parents, but admitted there could be improvements to nursing expertise in paediatrics.

'Modern nurse education is often either adult or paediatric, so a practice nurse could never have had paediatric training,' she said. 'This is appalling and needs to change.'

In a bid to improve care, Central Eastern Commissioning Support Unit is piloting a portal to enable GPs to view information about children deemed at risk. Data will include demographics, names of a child's family members and recent A&E attendances, to enable clinicians to make joined-up decisions

Data is also taken from its Community Information System used by health visitors and school nurses.

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